by David Phelps
"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa
This month marks two years ago (January, 1996) that Westside United Pentecostal Church was destroyed by fire. At that time we, Maplewood United Methodist Church, offered to share our building with them. We shared our church with them until November 16, 1997. On that day, both our congregations gathered together for a farewell potluck dinner. The following Sunday, they began worshipping in Crestwood Church of the Nazarene.
During the potluck, Westside's spokesman gave quite a testimonial in our behalf. After a while, he became so effusive he made us sound like saints. He spoke with enthusiasm about how we had helped them in their hour of need.
As he was speaking, I thought of the gospel passage when Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus. (Mark 15:21) Normally, it was customary for the one who was condemned to carry his own cross. But Jesus couldn't. He had been flogged by Pilate, made to wear a crown of thorns, beaten, spat upon and mocked. (Mark 15:15-19) His back was bloody and raw. He was too weak and in too much pain. He was barely able to walk. So the soldiers drafted Simon of Cyrene and made him carry the cross. And while Simon carried the cross for Jesus, Christ carried the sin of the world for all humanity.
Last year, after Princess Dianna was killed, many people came forward to praise her for her humanitarian works. Some called her a saint. Then, less than a month later, Mother Teresa the missionary died and by then people had run out of superlatives. The world had a chance to see a real saint. Princess Dianna's works, as wonderful as the might have been, paled in comparison with Mother Teresa's life of humble service.
Before we pat ourselves on the back over the praise heaped on us by Westside, we need to put things in perspective. It does us no good if we only do good for other Christians. (Luke 6:32-36) Our service in Christ's name must reach out to include everyone around us. In fact, no matter what we do, we can never surpass the sacrifice of Christ. As our own Mark Dumas said, Jesus was "the benchmark for the universe."
Remember that Simon of Cyrene was not a volunteer. He was dragged from his place in the crowd and forced to carry the cross. He did it because he had to. Only Jesus bore the cross willingly. When we, as a church, extended a helping hand to Westside United Pentecostal Church, we were simply doing what we had to do, as Christ's representatives. After all, some day we may be the ones who need help. And when we reach out individually to others, we are only doing what we must. The one who bore our cross and our sin expects nothing less.
"Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
and all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone,
and there's a cross for me."
"The consecrated cross I'll bear
till death shall set me free;
and then go home my crown to wear,
for there's a crown for me."
"Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?" vs. 1 & 3